There is no teleportation. Neither has space been colonized, not even the planets of the Solar System. No solution has been found to problems such as refugee crises, famines and droughts, global warming, and we continue to depend on oil as a source of energy. There is no equality between human beings, capitalism in its cruel neoliberal version is rampant and not even the last pandemic has agreed with humanity on the measures to stop it. Instead, on screen, cars fly, humanoid robots take on the toughest jobs, there are world federations, Mars looks like humanity’s backyard. In return, other films record the apocalypse in the form of a rebellion of the machines, natural disasters, giant meteorite falls, extraterrestrial threats or, simply, misfortunes caused by the vileness of man. In real life, the future looks too much like the past, technological changes have not been as radical as those noted in the cinema, although, at least, we do not dress in lycra jumpsuits. But those who shot a collective narcolepsy were right in a society that is more aware of the launch of the latest mobile than of human conflicts.
To all that time that has not been, to those dystopias and utopias that have fed the audiovisual of the last century, the Reina Sofía Museum is dedicating the cycle Possible futures. Cinema and worlds to come, curated by Chema González, responsible for cultural and audiovisual activities at the center, who is committed to “a cinema that ranges from classics to artistic films, orphans [filmes publicitarios, encargados por empresas, de los que no se conoce autor]… everything is cinema ”. Divided into five thematic programs and an epilogue, Possible futures, until July 2, it serves to go beyond the journey on that time to come, shown in the cinema from 1920 to 2020, because in reality it investigates the ideologies contained in the images: each digression is fueled by a conscious or unconscious message about of the approach to that future that was to come. And that has been left behind: 2001: a space odyssey it happened two decades ago.
Each decade has also had a future on screen that reflected the reality of the moment: if the nineties were the years of science fiction cinema that dealt with the No Future, at present the creators are giving loudspeaker to a generalized request: the need for a horizon. The collective desire has fed the creative machinery of the filmmakers, who contrive and design their futures. As Ridley Scott, who has been playing in this genre for decades, points out, “science fiction cinema is similar to historical cinema: we realize that we have not learned so much and we continue to make the same mistakes. Cinema about the future is useful because it is a warning sign ”.
The cycle, according to its curator, “brings together films from different fields, such as historical silent films, underground, orphan or archival films, auteur films or recent films made by artists, under the sole premise that they are all equal films and without hierarchies ”. And that looks uncomplicated to retrofuturism, which sometimes goes from the conception of the future devised decades ago to a mere propaganda message, sometimes almost advertising.
Hence, the first program focused on cosmism, Russian thought straddling the scientific and the mystical that achieved numerous followers in the first third of the 20th century; the second will speak of the city as an artifact of the future, with the projection of two films very far apart in their approaches, but united by their object of study: Metropolis (1926), by Fritz Lang, and Paris qui dort (1924), by René Clair; and the third will delve into capitalist promises – hence its title, Capitalist Utopias-Dystopias– that heralded a better world during the Cold War. It has screened material by the fascinating Rick Prelinger, a film collector, owner of an archive of more than 70,000 titles, who has selected films produced by large American corporations about the happiness that capitalism would bring.
Fourth (Afrofuturism) and fifth (Other Lives: Science Fiction and Consciousness) programs are the stars of June. González explains: “Every time has been fought for its own future, many filmmakers have shunned the dogma and have understood the future as a category to be conquered.” And that is well reflected in Afrofuturism, a cultural movement that emerged in the African diaspora during the second half of the 20th century, and that serves a cocktail of technology, magical realism, popular culture and non-Western cosmologies, adorned with science fiction. “And that it has been absorbed today in popular products, such as Black Panther “. Its filmmakers wonder about the place of the black population and conclude that it is the alien, an other being without rights in this world. Unlike other programs, “which show how decades ago they thought of futures that did not even raise the pressing problems that we live in the 21st century,” says González, Afrofuturism is linked to the current Black Lives Matter, and creators such as the musician participated in it. Sun Ra. Many of the sessions of the cycle have been accompanied by live music, and the Afrofuturism could not be less: next Friday there will be a concert by Siwo, the alter ego by Simonal Bie, pioneer of the scene afrobeat in Spain.
The cycle ends with Other lives: science fiction and conscience, “Who wonders what kind of life we live and if the existence of alternative lives is possible.” Includes another sci-fi classic: Stalker (1979), by Andréi Tarkovski, and ends with To bite (2019), by Pedro Neves Marques, focused on a pandemic world and what he calls “the dictatorship of biotechnology”. “In the end, what is the future?”, Reflects the curator, “an excuse to talk about the present.”